Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't Forget To Think... And Help Others Think Too!

Yup!  That's kind of an odd name for this blog post.  I recently had an experience riding near home that prompted this Facebook post and tweet:

Riding up Annandale Road today. ...
Dude in a Benz: Get the F%#* off the road!
Me (in a cheery, happy voice): Oh! No thank you. I'll just keep riding legally. Have a great day!
Dude in a Benz: Uhhh... Have a good day.
I'm guessing the guy either wasn't thinking when he first yelled at me... or at least wasn't thinking very well.  He sure as hell stopped to think before he drove off though. 

Things sometimes happen quickly when we're riding.  When someone passes aggressively our instinctive reaction is to yell at them or use hand gestures to express what we're feeling.  It happens to all of us and it is very hard to resist.  It also is usually an instinctive reaction, rather than a thought process. 

Doing so sometimes feels good for a moment, but we lose an opportunity when we do that. 

1)  We lose an opportunity to challenge the way people think about cyclists;
2)  We make it easy for people to drive without thinking and behave in a similar fashion again;
3)  Most of all, we make it easy for our actions on the bike to be guided without the use of thinking.

I'm not saying don't ever yell at motorists.  Sometimes yelling alerts a driver to our presence.  Use that voice for safety, not as a weapon.  The difference is subtle, but significant.

Thanks for reading!  Have a great bike ride.


I Love My Commute. Do You Love Yours?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Follow Me to Certain Death!

Those who know me well, know that I enjoy a long, challenging bike ride.  I’m very, very fortunate to have good friends who hear what I have in mind, tell me that it is probably impossible and definitely a stupid idea, then agree to join me.  Better yet, they come up with wonderful/stupid ideas on their own and I get to tag along. 

My friend Bilsko and I have been wanting to do a particular ride for about 18 months.  Our planned date last year was interrupted by him breaking his hip and me breaking my wrist two days later.  Here we are 13 months later and we’re ready to ride.  

The ride is simple.  We’re going to ride to Friday Coffee Club like we always do.  The difference is that we’re going to start a day early and start from Pittsburgh.  Stuart thought this sounded like fun, so he’s going to join us.  Lydia and Tina are joining us in Cumberland Maryland for the night time portion of the ride.  

That works out to about 335 miles in a day.  

Join us on Friday morning.  We’ll be at White’s Ferry at 4am, Great Falls at around 6:15 and in Georgetown by 7:30.  We’ll be at ME Swing Coffee House at 17th and G, NW a little after that.

When I do a ride like this, I usually raise money for a local charity.  The charity is a good one.  TC Williams International Academy has a scholarship program to send a deserving student to college.  This is a program near and dear to my heart, since it is a charity that my wife helped create.  

Here’s the info: 

Achieving the Dream Scholarship:  To donate, designate "specific scholarship" and type "achieving" in the special instructions block.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


WABA is starting a new project in Old Town Alexandria called #StopCampaign.  Basically we’re helping promote lawful cycling at major intersections in the area.  

Alexandria City is a an area that is working very hard to make the streets better for cyclists.  They really need to!  The area is growing in popularity, attracting more people every year.  The amount of parking places and driving lanes can’t keep pace.  Alexandria is working to support other ways to get around town.  

The city faces significant resistance to their efforts to improve cycling, as was evident during the battle to get bike lanes put in on King Street.  One of the biggest things that cycling opponents can use to strike down efforts to improve bike infrastructure is the behavior of cyclists at stop signs.  

Please consider being a part of this project.  There are many great things you can do. 

1) On the simplest level, please pay attention to traffic signs in Alexandria and yield to pedestrians.  

2) Consider taking some time out of your afternoon and picking up a sign to help convince others to ride lawfully.

3) Spread the word of the published Facebook events to attract others to join us.  

4) When you see us doing one of these events, snap a photo on your phone and post it on Twitter and tag it with @WABADC and #StopCampaign 
Some things about this... This campaign depends on positive interactions.  We are NOT yelling at cyclists who don't stop.  We ARE talking positively to all cyclists and thanking the ones that stop.  Nothing good happens when someone yells at a cyclist for failing to heed a stop sign.

Thanks for taking a little time to read and contribute.  

Here’s the first public event:

Best wishes,


Friday, September 26, 2014

From the Don't Try This At Home File

Dude Who Has Been Harassing Me By Driving Aggressively:  *HONK* *VROOOOM*  (Passed with about a foot of space between his mirror and my hip when he could have left me 6 feet of space.)

I noticed that, as usual, he had a female in the car next to him (hereafter known as "Wife") and some kids in the back seat.  Windows are down and he’s stopped at a rather long light in front of me.  

Me:  *Talking to the driver through the passenger window* "So this is how you’re going to end things with me? "


Me:  “Fine with me.  Go back to your suburban life, wife and kids.  I”ll cherish the time we had together enough for both of us."

Wife: *Laughing*

DWHBHMBDA:  “What the hell?"

Me:  “I’ll bet your name isn’t even ‘Jerry’."

Wife:  “It isn’t.”   *Laughting*

Me: “Fine!”  *I turn right on red… legally*

Wife:  *Bursts out laughing*

I wish I could say that DWHBHMBDA did something dramatic… or that his kids said, “Uhhhmm Dad???”   I was gone before he got his green light. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Arlington Blvd Bike Path

It’s a new bike path…. big deal!  Actually this one is kind of a big deal.  Building new bike infrastructure is all about connecting transportation corridors.  There are almost always good, safe routes to get from point A to point B.  Sometimes these established routes take people far enough out of their way that they take the quicker, more dangerous route, or choose another mode of transportation.  

So when a new bike lane or bike path is created that completes a transportation route, it is kind of a big deal.  

In Arlington, Virginia, Pershing Drive has been an established East/West route for quite a few years.  Unfortunately it kind of dumped off at Arlington Blvd with a rather sketchy frontage road/sidewalk lane to complete the route into Rosslyn or Washington, DC.  People used it, but it was never easy, or as safe as it could be.  


The wonderful folks in Arlington County added a separated bike path that connects Pershing Drive and the Arlington Blvd. Frontage road.  It is less than a mile of path, but it completes a cycling corridor that connects a neighborhood where many people depend on bicycles to Downtown Washington, DC with a route that is easy, safe and fun to ride.  That’s the holy grail of bicycle infrastructure…. easy, safe and fun.  

The people stuck in bumper to bumper traffic might catch a glimpse of happy people on bicycles on that path and get the idea that riding a bike to work might not be so impossible.  They’ll have plenty of time to watch the bicycles pass them by.

Thanks Arlington County, BikeArlington and all the volunteers that have pushed for better bicycling in this region.  Y’all make me happy.


Wash Cycle:
Arlington County Bike Map:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Choose your thoughts wisely. Your actions will follow them.

I’ve heard that Courtland Milloy wrote a column in the Washington Post that encouraged violence toward cyclists.  
What was in Mr. Milloy’s column?  I honestly don’t know for sure, because I haven’t read it. Nor do I intend to.  I’ve read many responses to it… enough that I get the gist.  

If you take it at face value, Mr. Milloy uses ignorance and an over-inflated sense of self importance to promote hatred and violence against people that he doesn’t understand.  "Bicyclists are in front of me.  Many of them don’t obey traffic laws.  I’m important and need to be at the front of the line.  We should all be violent toward cyclists.  We’re justified in feeling this way."

Using ignorance and self-importance to promote an “us versus them” atmosphere and justify hatred and violence is nothing new.  But it is a thought that we should challenge before we make it our own.  It is the same thought patterns that have resulted in the most horrific actions taken by mankind over the centuries.  I’m not saying that Mr. Milloy is on the same level as those who took part in the Holocaust, Rwandan Genocide or the abuses at Abu Graib prison, but the roots of his thought patterns have a lot in common with those used to justify those dark times in human history.

If DON’T take Mr. Milloy’s column at face value, then things get worse.  We see things like this in the media quite often.  Writers and editors look for someone outwardly hate and vilify for personal and corporate gain. Since hatred based upon gender, sexual preference and race is less sympathetic in the media than it once was, they can pick on someone else:  Cyclists, for example.  Some readers will agree.  There will be a large, but acceptably offensive public discussion and people will read the awful column.  The column’s web site will get lots of hits and the advertisers will be thrilled.  When a suitable amount of outrage has been expressed, the newspaper can publish a well thought out article countering this column, and lots of people will read that and people will think the newspaper is balanced and fair again.  Best of all, the newspaper gets LOTS of hits and the advertisers will be happy.  

I have friends and acquaintances that work at The Washington Post.  I apologize for taking such a realistic view of their publication.  Stories like this happen once every year or two… sometimes in print, sometimes on radio talk shows.  They blow up, stir up, blow over and fade away.  Advertisers love it!  Not too many really think that it can do much harm.  

I chose to live my life differently.  My world is bigger than me… much bigger.  It includes humanity, which I love, even though people do stuff that I don’t like.  I’m able to love the people, while not loving some of their actions.  It makes forgiveness possible.  I’m fortunate that there are people who forgive me when I’m wrong.  I live in a world where I work pretty hard to have positive interactions with EVERYONE that I meet.  I don’t always succeed, but I always try and I get it right the vast majority of the time.  I arrive at home at night and keep score of my day based upon how many people I treated fairly and kindly.  I rejoice and am grateful for every one who did the same for me.  I learn from the times that I don’t do so well and improve next time.

Sounds  a lot better to me than being ignorant, self-important, hateful and violent.  

Please take a moment to choose how you’re going to live your life tomorrow.  Make that choice wisely, and in accordance with your highest sense of right.  It makes a huge difference to me how you choose.

Thanks!  I love you.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Beast of Burden

I’ve had a bunch of questions about my main commuter bike lately thanks to photos that I’ve had on Flickr and Twitter.  It is a rather odd bike, so I’ll lay it out here.  This is the bike I use most often for doing advocacy work for Washington Area Bicyclist Association.  I pull their advocacy trailer and carry all the stuff I need for doing outreach events.  It is not unusual for me to have 4 panniers on this bike or the trailer out back.  I don’t often do both at the same time.  It is, after all, a fixie.

Frame/Fork: Steelwool is the builder.  Tweed is the model.  They’re Canadian.  I don’t think it is made anymore.  It is lugged Tange Prestige with an Eccentric Bottom Bracket so that it can be run fixie or single speed.  There are brake mounts for discs and cantilever brakes.  It is generally a road geometry.  There is room for 35mm tires with full fenders and enough rack mounts to make it a good beast of burden.  Even with fenders I don’t have toe overlap.

Cockpit: All selected for durability — Headset = King NoThreadSet, Stem = Thomson X-4 mountain bike stem, Bars = Zipp Service Course.  The bars are my favorites for comfort.  I actually use Shimano Ultegra shift/brake levers.  The shifters are not hooked up to anything.  I broke my wrist last year and shifting the front derailleur works like physical therapy for me.  I can just ride around shifting all day.  My wrist is MUCH stronger as a result.  I use an Avid BB7 Road front disc brake.  It is super noisy when wet or humid.  The braking power is great though.  

Wheels: They’re simple and durable.  Paul Component Engineering hubs with Velocity Deep V rims.  32 spokes laced 3 cross in back, 2 cross and radial up front.   The wheels  are many, many years old and have been on at least 4 different bikes.  Continental Gatorskin tires… 700x32.  They’ve got almost 10,000 miles on them, so it is time for them to be replaced.

Drivetrain: Ultegra crank, Sugiono chainrings, Surly double fixie cog.  SRAM 8-speed chain.  There are actually 2 different gear ratios that I can use.  The chainrings are 46/44 the cogs are 17/19.  Since there is 2 teeth difference between the respective rings and cogs, they use the same chain length.  I just drop the rear wheel, move the chain over, then reinstall the wheel.  I’ve never actually used the 44/19 combination before.  Pedals are Time ATAC mountain bike pedals.

Seating: Thomson Seatpost (the most durable and light that I know of.  Specialized Toupe saddle.  I know it is a race saddle, but it is arguably the most comfortable I’ve used.  I spent 3-5 hours a day on this bike and it needs to be comfy.

Other stuff:  Racktime Racks: They’re light, durable and have decent carrying capacity.  Racktime makes many different bags and baskets that click into the top of each rack.  I use the large basket in back and a small laptop bag up front.  I can use the basket in back and still hook up panniers.  I usually ride with front panniers only because on a fixie, it makes it easier to get out of the saddle to climb if I don’t have weight on the back of the bike.  

VeloOrange fenders: They are reasonably priced and give great coverage.  They don’t rattle.  They just keep me dry.

Exposure lights: They’re durable and bright.  They’ve been with me for years, get used daily and have never failed me. 

What’s next: I’m thinking of setting up a dynamo lighting system on this bike.  It would be nice to never have to charge the batteries on the light and also have a source of USB power to charge my phone or GPS while on the bike.  I probably need to rebuild the wheels.  They’re old and would benefit from new spokes and nipples.  Very few of my bikes are ever finished.  This one is one of the most complete.  There’s not much left for me to do with it. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I raced the rain

I raced the rain home tonight.

As the clouds got darker, I decided to take the long way home. Still no rain.

I stopped early for stop lights and waited a little extra at stop signs. Still no rain.

I went out of my way to get more cat food, which I don't immediately need. It got darker, but still no rain.

My hopes peaked as the wind picked up and temps dropped. Still no rain.

Got home.... still not a drop even though the clouds were black and it was as dark as night. I was grumpy.

Luckily my wife wasn't home and I could go to the store for wine. I FINALLY got dumped on royally on my ride home from the store. Soaking wet and with a HUGE smile on my face, I pulled the bike into the barn.

I WON!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's okay to not ride in the rain.

Tomorrow is Bike To Work Day and there’s a 100% chance of rain.  

I love riding in the rain.  TONS of people do it.  It is normal and fun.  You should be careful and visible, but a little planning can make it safe and fun.  I have been mountain bike snorkeling in Cherry Creek Reservoir and ridden with through every imaginable form of downpour, including Hurricane Sandy.  When my new panniers claimed to be waterproof, I submersion tested them.  While I don’t recommend riding through a hurricane, I do recommend going for a ride in the rain!  I’m relatively sure that the human body is 100% waterproof.  I’ve never heard of anyone melting when they get wet.  

That said, I know it is unfamiliar for some people.  If riding in the rain is a small jump on the adventure scale for you, please consider riding to work tomorrow!  I think you’ll be surprised how much fun it is.  

That said, I know that it may be a step too far on the adventure ride scale for some new riders.  It’s okay to take your normal mode of transportation to work tomorrow.  Pick a day in the next week or two to ride.  Drop me a line if you’d like some company riding to work.  I’ll ride with you!

Have a great day!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let's Talk About Mentors

The author Terry Pratchett had one of his characters describe herself this way, “I’m made up of everyone that has ever changed the way I think.”.  For better or for worse, it rings true with me and I love that description. It fits in well with this topic.  

I had a good day yesterday.  I was reminded of one of my bike mentors when I was a little kid.  Paolo ran an old school bike shop in Denver from the mid 60s through the mid 80s.  When I’m talking old school, I mean old country, old school.  He carried a few lines of complete bikes, but his real business was custom steel race bikes.  His business was based on personal relationships with families like Compagnolo, Colnago, DeRosa and Pinarello.  He did his own importing by going to Italy twice per year to talk with these people and make the deals.  

What triggered this memory for me?  I was a trouble-making little kid on a BMX bike when I ran into Paolo.  What amazed me was that, like many Italian Masters, he wore a perfectly white, starched dress shirt to work every day.  Even the cleanest of bikes get greasy and oily.  Paolo never had a spot on his shirt…. NEVER!  He could listen to a customer for a few minutes, size you up with an experienced eye, and tell you exactly what bike you SHOULD have.  He’d then work with you to find the  bike that got you as much of the qualities of the ideal bike as you could afford.  

The first time I met him, he told me, “Only bike for you…. Colnago Master.”  I was riding a home-made BMX race bike that I’d cobbled together with parts that I could find, trade, and dumpster dive for.  I was 11 years old.  He was, of course, 100% right.  To this day, the only bike for me is a Colnago Master.  I still can’t afford one.  I will someday.  

He saw something in me that day that he liked.  By the end of the week I was sweeping the floors and taking out the trash for his shop.  By week two, he was showing me simple jobs around the shop that I could do that would make his life easier.  They were often things that he didn’t want to do… or things that, if he slipped up, might have gotten his shirt dirty.  But for every 5 or 6 dirty jobs that I’d do, he’d show me how to do something cool and inspiring.  I was hooked.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of a formal apprenticeship…. old world-style.  I an hour or 5 in Paolo’s shop every day I could for many, many years.  I learned that it isn’t just what you do, but how you do it that matters.  I’ll never have his eye or his ability to stay clean in a sometimes dirty business, but I have that vision to strive for.  I learned to listen and learn every day.  I learned to give openly of myself with no expectation of return… something that I learned from many people over my years.  I learned that is the way to become the kind of person I want to be.

Last night I posted the clean shirt story on Facebook because I’d had a “clean shirt in the face of some very grimy bikes” kind of day.  My shirt was a vintage bowling shirt made of 100% rayon, but it was one of the rare days that I emerged from the shop clean when I should have been covered in grease.  By morning that blurb had 70+ likes and a bunch of comments.  That told me that I should write about it more and get your stories.  

I’ll post a link to this on Facebook, Twitter and the Washington Area Bike Forum.  I want to hear your stories about great mentors that have influenced you.  I want to know who changed the way you think.  :D  Please post a reply here, on Facebook, Twitter or the Forum.  

Lots of love to you!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Good and Bad Excuses for Not Signing Up For Bike To Work Day.

There are good excuses and bad excuses for not taking part in Bike To Work Day.  I’ll start with the bad.  

I met a fellow at the intersection of Gallows Road and the W&OD Trail today.  It is a light that often takes 4-5 minutes to give a signal to let cyclists and pedestrians to walk.  

Me: Have you signed up for Bike To Work Day yet? 
Dude:  I’m okay.
Me: Cool!  BTWD isn’t about just you though. It is about making cycling better for everyone.
Dude:  Really.  I’m okay.
Me:  Do you like how long you have to wait at this stop light?
Dude: It doesn’t bother me. 
Dude behind dude:  It pisses me off!  What can I do to help???
Me: Signing up for BTWD helps all of the local bike organizations by getting a count of the people who commute by bike.  It is a way to stand up and say “I ride my bike for transportation… not just for sport or for fun.”  
Dude behind dude:  I’ll sign up.  
Chick behind Dude behind dude: Me too!
Me to Dude:  You still okay?
Dude: I’m okay.
Dude behind Chick: I’ll sign up! 

Jump forward 2 minutes.  I’ve given fliers to the other 10 people waiting for the light.  I walk back up to Dude.  

Me: Have a great ride!  
Dude:  I’m okay.

Now I don’t really expect to get enthusiastic support from every cyclist for Bike To Work Day… or any other event or initiative that I’m talking about.  This guy definitely had a view that we see a lot in the area… Complete and total focus on himself.  It is cool if you don’t want to talk about cycling stuff.  I get that.  People want their space.  I do tend to push a few buttons to make a point from time to time.  I didn’t expect this guy to change his song after the initial contact.  Him not changing his song actually helped me talk to the other people in line.  

Let’s get onto a good excuse to not sign up for BTWD.

I met a doctor tonight.  He’s a trauma specialist that works specifically with patients that have nerve damage.  HIs skills are unique and he moves between many hospitals every day… sometimes by helicopter because every moment he can save getting to a patient means that he has a higher probability of saving a life or a limb.  

There were others that had great reasons why they couldn’t sign up.  For me, “I’m okay” doesn’t really qualify in that list.  

If we meet face to face and I ask you to sign up and it is something you really don’t want to do, then just lie to me.  Tell me you’ve already signed up.  I’ll thank you and leave you alone.  Better yet, just sign up.   You won’t have to lie and you’ll feel good that you’ve helped the community.  You might even have a bit of fun.  

Nothing wrong with that at all.  

I love and respect you all…. even Dude.  :D


Monday, March 17, 2014

Fairfax County Police GET STUFF DONE!!! Thanks!

Every time it snows this person, who I love and respect, parks his Mercedes in the crosswalk that blocks the W&OD trail and makes it dangerous for people to cross the street.  They are forced to walk in traffic. 

Here's the guy.

I called Fairfax Police.  I got the number from 411 and asked for the non-emergency Fairfax Police phone number.  The dispatcher asked for my name, phone number, location and a description of the car.  She thanked me and was SUPER nice.  It took less than 2 minutes to report the guy.  (I later found out that 411 connected me to the emergency dispatch line... but that didn't seem to matter.)

We rode back past an hour later and VOILA!  The car had been moved!

It is now MUCH safer to ride, walk and ski on the trail.  Thank you Fairfax County Police!  You have proved yourself AWESOME again!

When you see something like this, please take a few moments to take action.  You'll make the world a better place... even if it is just a small corner of the world.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dairy Queen Errandonneuring Metric Century

The Nonsense:

Dairy Queen:  This comes from the DQ abbreviation for “disqualification”.  

I tend to do ride challenges in a very different way in which they were intended… thus I’m often “Dairy Queened” on them.  Who can forget Coffeeneuring from a few years back?  The challenge was to include a lovely coffee stop on your weekend endurance rides and document them with photos and blog entries.  I took a bit of editorial license and changed it to “CatFood-enneuring”.  I did a series of endurance rides in which I stopped in some lovely, small town in the hinterlands to buy cat food.   I never published the results because I figured it might be interpreted as mocking what I actually thought was a lovely challenge worthy of serious effort.  

The Not-Nonsense
The Challenge at Hand:  Errandonneuring.  Here’s how Gypsibug designed for the randonneuring community:

Basically it motivates people to do errands by bike.  Awesome and beautiful quest!  This year I decided to take the challenge a bit seriously.  I had a busy day and decided to document all of my errands.  I went out of my way to do a few extras in my day on the bike to see what I could actually complete.   

1)  Coffee: (Coffee or Dessert Control) at SoHo near Dupont Circle:

2) National Bike Summit Congressional Ride (Community Meeting Control) near the capitol.

3) Hair Cut (Personal Hygiene Control) in Falls Church, VA:

4) Lunch (Breakfast or Lunch Control) Celebrity Delly in Falls Church, VA:

5) Mountain Bike Advocacy Meeting (Community Meeting) Falls Church, VA

6) Grocery Store (Grocery Shopping) Falls Church, VA:

7) Library to return books (Library or reading Control) Fairfax, VA:

8) Cat food shopping (Misc Shopping (Not Groceries)) Falls Church, VA :

9) Bike Shop for tubes and CO2 (Bike Shop Control) Falls Church, VA:

10) Are shorts in stock? (Misc Shopping (Not Groceries)) Arlington, VA:

10b) Cat Toy Shopping (No control — I already have 2 Misc Shopping Controls)  Arlington, VA:

11) Commute to work (Work Control) Adams Morgan, DC

12) Dinner (Dinner Control) Adams Morgan, DC

12b) Banking (No Control.  I’ve already done 3 Misc Shopping Controls) Falls Church, VA:

13) Frozen Yogurt (Coffee or Dessert Control) Falls Church, VA:

14) I need WINE after a day like this (Grocery Shopping Control) Falls Church, VA:

Sooooo... After all of that, why am I Dairy Queen on this challenge?????  It doesn't start until tomorrow.  D'OH!

I really just wanted to show what is possible. :D   Here's the route:

Enjoy this challenge.  It is wonderful!  Go ride your bike!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Crosswalks and the Snow on the W&OD Trail

The Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD) is mainstay of recreation, fitness and commuting infrastructure for people who live in the Virginia Suburbs of Washington DC.  There has been a lot of talk about plans to plow the snow and ice off of the trail since it really gets used year-round.  Arlington has done a WONDERFUL job of plowing the trail this year and in many years past.  They are truly leading the pack in that respect. 

The problem exists, however, that large walls of snow and ice block access to the trail at crosswalks and make it EXTREMELY dangerous for people to use the trail, even when it is snowy.  As I said above, the trail gets used year-round... even when it is snow and ice covered. In good weather and conditions, thousands of people per day use the path.  When it is snowy and icy like this, the numbers reduce to the hundreds.  Their use of the trail is evident. 

Yesterday and today I rode past some of these crosswalks to document what they look like.  Hopefully this can help raise awareness that even if we don't plow the trail, putting some manpower at clearing the walls of ice at the crosswalks would be a GREAT safety improvement for everyone using the trail. 

THIS is the interactive trail map published by the Friends of the W&OD, the volunteer group that helps oversee the trail.  The map will help give you references to the photos that I've posted. 

Arlington has plowed and cleared the crossings from Mile 0 near Shirlington out to Sycamore Street, near East Falls Church Metro.  My quest starts there and heads west through Vienna, VA

Here are the photos from my findings:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Give Cycling A Voice

This blog post started with 141 Happy New Years, but its roots go back at least a decade.  Cycling advocacy is often about relationships with the people we encounter on our bicycles each day.  In the Washington, DC area, it seems like isolation is most people’s tendency… We’re all very important people.  The car radio, headphones and mobile phones all conspire to turn our attention inward.  This is a problem because it means that we encounter cars, pedestrians or bikers, rather than individual, living, breathing humans.  By nature, humans want to simplify what we see and encounter so that we can concentrate on what we think is important.  We’re not always as attentive as we should be to our surroundings.

The challenge is to turn our attention outward and inspire others to do the same.  In other words, we need to treat everyone with the respect that we’d like to receive.  The great side benefit is that we’re more in tune with our surroundings and are better able to move through our commute safely.  

How do we make that change?  That brings me back to the 141 Happy New Years.  On January 2, 2014 I rode to work like I always do but with one change.  I said “Happy New Year” to every person I encountered on my ride…. all 141 of them.  I didn’t just say it to pedestrians and runners that I rode past.  I said it to drivers, cyclists and people sitting at the bus stop.  I’m usually quite talkative with the people I encounter on my rides, but this was definitely taking it to the next level.  

What was the reaction?  Overwhelmingly positive!  Virtually everyone responded positively and out loud.  My Happy New Years were met in kind.  I heard from walkers, cyclists and drivers… some of which had to roll down their window to say it.  The police officer pulling over a driver said “Happy New Year”…. so did the person she was pulling over.  The dog walkers in Rose Park sang it back to me as I wished them Happy New Year at full volume.  Walkers that I’ve encountered every day for years wished me a Happy New Year.

What did this achieve?  I gave cycling a voice.  Ringing a bell lets people know I’m approaching. But as my friend Dani says, that’s the bike making a noise.  By giving a positive, vocal message as I pass by, I become not just a biker, I’m the biker that says something nice to me every day.  People, including myself, are no longer looking inward.  We’re all looking outward and are more in tune with our surroundings… even if it is just for a few moments.  It is progress.  

Take the time and talk to the people you meet.  Wish them a good morning, a happy Friday or a pleasant evening.  Talk to everyone that you encounter.  Some will respond positively, some won’t, some may respond negatively.  EVERYONE will turn their attention to what’s going on around them with a little more detail.  That is grass roots advocacy…. and it works!

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bicycling to the New Silver Line Metro Stations

Last week Liz and I planned and lead a ride with some members of Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA -  Fairfax Advocates for Better Biking (FABB - to scout out ways to ride to some of the new Silver Line Metro stations being brought on line in the near future.  We found a few surprises in getting around.  Some stations are easily accessible by bike.  Others are more of a challenge.   The good and not-so good rides were not what I expected.  

Background:  One of the great things about the new Silver Line Metro Stations is that they are all extremely well equipped with bike racks and bike storage lockers.  At this point, most of these stations do not have a lot of automobile parking.  That leaves getting to and from Metro by bus, taxi or bicycle.  As a bicycle advocate, I took a keen interest in scouting out the routes to the Silver Line Stations.

McLean Station turned out to be the most pleasant, and probably easiest station to get to by bicycle.  The route from the south consists of mostly neighborhood streets that are quiet and enjoyable by bicycle.  Here is the route that we took:  It runs from Tysons Station Shopping Center (the intersection of Pimmit Drive and Leesburg Pike) to the McLean Metro Station.  
McLean Station

A slight variant on the route listed above is from McLean High School to McLean Metro station:  Magarity Road has quite a bit of traffic, but is not bad for cycling.  The route is quite convenient.  

Tyson’s Corner Station is for the short term, slightly more hazardous to ride to because of road and building construction across the street from the station.  The construction is specifically located at the intersection of ShopTysons Blvd and the Chain Bridge Rd entrance to the mall.  There is a stop sign on ShopTysons Blvd for crossing the mall entrance that has very little visibility to oncoming traffic.  In coming months, the construction will be completed and the route will be much safer.  From the south, there is a great route from the Kilmer Middle School Neighborhood to the Tysons Corner Station.  I use this route to get to the mall for shopping.  There’s great bike parking in front of Gordon Biersch Brewery with easy access to the mall.
Tysons Corner Station: Bike racks are visible to the left

The business park to the north comes from Freddie Mac, near Spring Hill Road around to Tysons Corner Mall.  Jones Branch Dr. is busy, but has a very wide shoulder.  It was an easy ride to the metro.  There is access to the Metro Station on both the south and north of Chain Bridge Road.  

Spring Hill Station has some routes that are easy and safe and some routes that are not at all recommended.  From the west, Metro access from Wolf Trap National Park is a pleasant ride, though it has a few hills.  Trap Road has a nice, multi-use trail that makes things much easier.
Spring Hill Station

Spring Hill Station has an easy route from the south and the Westbriar Elementary School neighborhood:  There are a few sections of multi-use trails.  

One of the routes that would be most useful to get to Spring Hill Station is from the north.  Spring Hill Recreation Center and Park is a big part of the community.  Unfortunately the roads between Spring Hill Rec Center and the metro are NOT safe for riding.  The shoulders on Spring Hill Road are narrow and the traffic is heavy and moving quickly.  We rode it safely at its lowest traffic time, but I wouldn’t recommend it to any but the most seasoned cyclists used to riding in high-traffic areas.   

I’m pleased to say that there are great cycling routes and great cycling facilities for these Metro stations!

Happy riding!


Monday, January 6, 2014

VDOT Beltway Crossing Improvments -- Gallows and Little River Turnpike

Overview:  VDOT posted an announcement saying that "bicycle and pedestrian paths have been completed for the beltway overpasses with Fairfax County paths".  The VDOT web site was horribly vague about what the projects included, so I went out to explore.  I rode Gallows Road and Little River Turnpike.  I'll update later with information about Braddock Road when I have a chance to ride it.  

Generally the projects crossing the beltway include wider sidewalks and crosswalks marked with signs for drivers to yield to people in the crosswalks.  There are no on-road bike facilities or bike lanes on either of the beltway crossings that I rode.  

Initial Observations:  Some of the crosswalks have good site lines for those using them and for approaching automobiles.  Many have very poor site lines and are extremely dangerous.  The yield signs for the crosswalks are extremely small (14" square) and completely inadequate for marking the crosswalks.  They are often obscured by other traffic signs that are 36" tall and bigger.  
Tiny yield sign is lost in the visual clutter

The announcement talks about "trail extensions".  I didn't really find all the connections that the press release talked about.  I'll go through the connections as I look at each crossing.  

Gallows Westbound:  The sidewalk along Gallows Road now connects to the sidewalk on the bridge across I-495.  The sidewalk is about 6' wide, which is not really wide enough for a bicycle rider to comfortably pass pedestrians without getting quite close.  The crosswalks have quite good site lines, but the yield signs indicating to drivers that a crosswalk exists are woefully too small.  They appear to be about 14" square and are completely lost in the visual clutter of all the other signs along the road.  

Gallows Road West-bound

On the west side of the bridge, the sidewalk crosses the exit, but does not really connect to anything on the other side.  This appears to be a connection to a sidewalk or path that does not yet exist.   

Gallows Eastbound:  The Eastbound side of the Gallows Rd. Bridge has much better connections.  There are sidewalks and crosswalks that connect to the Fairfax Innova Hospital and to bike-friendly roads on the west side.  Woodburn and Holly Roads are ones that I use regularly and are quite bike friendly.  The site lines for the crosswalks are good, but the one crossing the ramp entering I-495 south has pedestrians and cyclists crossing a bit of road where cars are entering fast and trying to accelerate up to beltway speeds (55mph speed limit that is usually driven at 65mph+).  A 14" square yield sign is nowhere near adequate to promote safe crossing.   

The sidewalk across the bridge connects up well to the sidewalk on the east side of Gallows Road and makes the best connection for pedestrians.  The crosswalk on the east side has a traffic light and is the safest that I toured today.  

Conclusion:  As a cyclist, I'll stick to the road and avoid the Gallows Road Sidewalks.  I personally feel much safer mixing with cars because there are not really usable connections for cyclists on all sides of the bridge.  For novice cyclists, the sidewalks will get you across the beltway very safely.  You just need to make sure you're able to connect to where you want to go.  If you're inside the beltway and need to get to Fairfax Innova hospital, you'll want to cross on the south side of the bridge.  That is the side that has better, safer connections.  
Gallows Road Eastbound.  See the tiny yield sign?

Little River Turnpike Westbound: The sidewalks on Little River Turnpike are much wider.  They're 8 feet wide.  They connect up perfectly on the east and west sides and are a joy to ride.  This is arguably the safest way to cross the beltway…. or is it???  Unfortunately the site lines are sometimes much worse than what we saw on Gallows Road.  The first crosswalk has the same 14" yield sign to announce its location, but there's barely 50 yards of site line for cars that are entering fast and trying to accelerate up to highway speeds.  This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS crosswalk.  The crosswalk at the far side of the bridge is very good and has great site lines.  The wide path/sidewalk connects up to the frontage road on the west side perfectly.  It is a great way to cross the beltway!
Cars moving quickly plus short site lines equals dangerous crosswalk

Connection to Cross County Trail:  Nothing to see here, you bunch of Looky-loos.  When I read about bike trail connections at Little River Turnpike, I was SOOOOO excited… anticipating a connection to the Fairfax Cross County Trail.  As I rode across, I could see where it was!  I could see that people had used it!  I was so happy!   Then I got to the No Trespassing signs.  There is still no connection to the CCT on this side of Little River Turnpike.  
No CCT access here!

Little River Turnpike Eastbound:  This is the best of the bunch when it comes to connecting to where people want to go.  Accotink Parkway on the west side connects the Fairfax CCT to the beltway crossing.  The yield sign is tiny, but the site lines are good.  On the far side of the bridge, the story is different.  The crosswalk has okay site lines, but the drivers are going EXTREMELY fast.  I stood at the crosswalk to see if anyone would yield to me.  After 30 or 40 cars crossed, a minivan tried to stop.  He couldn't do it in time.  I heard his ABS rattling as he tried to stop.  He ended up rolling through the crosswalk at about 15mph.  He demonstrated that an average Joe couldn't stop for one of these crosswalks in real-life conditions if he wanted to.  

Dude tried to yield, but couldn't

Conclusion:  I'm going to revise my original conclusion.  The last few times I've ridden that area of Little River Turnpike, it has been very ugly and not a place I am comfortable riding.  I've talked to 4 of my friends who ride through there regularly, and they gave me some local intel.   For experienced cyclists riding 236 across the beltway is probably safer on the street.  I'll go back and evaluate that again for myself.  If you ride through the area, give it a good look and let  me know what you think. 

Here are more photos of my trip if you're interested in seeing more of what I experienced:

I'll report on Braddock Road in the next few days. 

Happy Riding.